I knew as soon as I moved to West Africa that I wanted to go on a safari in the Masai Mara. It may be the most well known reserve out there in the travel world. At least to me it was. I looked into options for the first week of January, and of how to do it and really the only way I saw fit was to book a tour. There are many tour companies out there and options of how to do it, but I only had a few days to work with for my trip, and not a whole lot of money. Tip number one from me, you don’t need to go on a safari for longer than a few days. I honestly think our 3 day and 2 night safari was the perfect amount of time. The only way I’d be able to do longer is if we were visiting other reserves and seeing more than just the one place.
There are so companies to choose from that it can definitely be overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone with recommendations or blog posts on the matter, though I did search through to find some. In my search I found Beacon Safaris, which seemed like the best and most affordable tour for what we needed. We would be in Kenya for 5 days and with timing of our flight we really only had 3 days to work with to do a safari of the Masai Mara. They had such great options from short to long travel options. I chose the 3 day, 2 night luxury camp safari; which included pick up and drop off in Nairobi, a driver/guide, accommodations, all meals, water and a great time, for $600US per person.
Our guide, Kenneth, was so great. He was so informative and did everything he could to make sure we got to see everything we wanted to. The vehicle was an 8 seater but only had myself and my partner in it. I loved that the roof moved up so that we could stand and view the animals while in the car. It was the perfect safari vehicle. The best part is, we saw the Big 5. All of them, even the leopard, though it was in a tree.
There are lots of options for safari accommodations. Our tour company booked ours, as a part of the tour, and it turned out more perfectly than I could ever have imagined. The luxury camp option is definitely the way to go, for my personal preference, and Ilkeliani Camp was a great choice.
We had a big tent that had a comfortable bed, with a working washroom, with shower. We had a Masai warrior available to walk us around the camp ground, whenever it was dark out, to protect us; not that we felt that threatened, but we were in the company of animals out there after all. We fell asleep to the sound of hyenas laughing, which was the most interesting sound I have ever fallen asleep to. And to top it off, the food; it was incredible. With our tour it was all included, there was a simple buffet breakfast but perfect for what we needed. They even made our packed lunch to bring with us on safari, in order to have a picnic. And a 3-course dinner that was absolutely delicious.
When we first heard we had the option to stop at a Masai village, at an extra cost, to see how they live, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It seemed cool, but I wasn’t sure if this was exploitation of some kind. I looked into it a bit and I found out there are definitely reasons why this was a good thing to do.
We decided to do the visit and I am glad we did. We talked to the leader of the Masai warriors and he told us of how the money we paid goes towards the school. The school does not get any government funding and needs the money to be able to provide their children an education. It was also very interesting to see how different their lives are from ours, or even the lives of people in Nairobi, only a few hours away. I only wish I had more cash on me to buy something they made, and contribute a little more.
Something to Keep in Mind
Here is the key to safaris, remember that these are wild animals out there. Nothing is guaranteed to be seen during your trip. We discussed with our driver how angry some people get at not seeing this animal or that one. People tend to forget that these animals are not there for you, they are just living their lives. You are very lucky if you get to see things like all of the Big 5. That, to me, is what makes it all the more special. So go on a safari without expectations and you will come out of it forever grateful for the experience.